I sat down to write a post and got distracted writing out French and Tahitian phrases…almost three weeks ago! It’s all good until someone actually answers you…hmmm what do I do now? I look at it as a lead in, make an effort, try my best- they’ll work out pretty quickly it’s easier to speak to me in English, (or not at all) than to hear their language murdered on my lips. Despite some decent time in France over the last 12 years I always feel muzzled. Can’t… quite… get…past…bon jour, merci and un croissant aux Amande si vous plait. Someone else has always done the talking, but as I’m solo here, the time has come!
Here, is Tahiti and Mike’s already been away well over a week. Time seems to have taken on a new rhythm and is flying by at an alarming rate.
Our time in Fakarava was beyond brief. I’m still reeling, (in a good way) from our experience there. I think Mike and I would both agree that this was the Pacific we’ve been dreaming of, (at least the one he’s been dreaming of and trying to convince me exists!)
The transition to being four hasn’t been without its moments, (Muz, if you’re reading this you’d be forgiven for thinking I was trying to sabotage our fine vessel). Literally the day Murray left I somehow managed to slightly bend the furling gear bringing up the anchor. Never happened before, could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t. I got the “Creasy” award, a trophy so named after a disastrous crew member on a friends boat kept breaking things. Next came the mother of all overrides bringing the dinghy up onto the davits. I’ve done this job quite a lot, I’d checked I had the correct number of wraps around the winch, yet somehow the rope got caught around itself increasing the pressure to the point of bending the gear out of shape and distorting the top part of the winch. If none of this makes sense the simple terms are, ‘oh dear, not good, you’ve got to be kidding and various expletives by both adults under their breath. There’s a scary calmness to my husband during these moments. Sometimes I wish he’d just yell at me so I could yell back but I know that this doesn’t really get you anywhere in the long run, suffice to say it releases a bit of pent up frustration. There’s always a risk you’ll say something you don’t mean and always a risk you’ll say something you do!
Hey ho, there’s always something going on!
We left the Marquesas late in the afternoon, escorted out into the open ocean by a pod of dolphins. They stayed with us for ages, starting with 11, swapping the lead, pealing off and returning until gradually there were 9, 7,5, 3, then a lone friend who stayed a while longer.
The trip took three days, which should have been a chinch after the 16 days it took us to cross the Pacific but I disliked it for the most part and that’s all I got to say about that! “tell me what’s on your mind”
“What am I thinking? I’m thinking I don’t want to sail from NZ to Australia!”
“Are there airports on the Tuamotos?”
Hmmmm, but then we arrived, making our way through the North pass entrance before continuing down to the town of Rotoava. You have to time your entrance into an atoll with an incoming or slack tide. The force of the water flowing between the open sea and the lagoon within the reef can be so strong that it can seriously create a problem if you’re trying to sail against it. Think reef either side, nasty waves and significant force pushing you backwards or sideways or any way but the direction you’re heading. Our passage inside was uneventful, (apart from the internal celebration of arriving) and we anchored off the main town in perfectly calm, flat ‘gin’ clear aquamarine water!
We hired bikes and cruised along the single wide white road that extends the length of the township. It’s been a while since we were on bikes! Within 30 metres you can make your way down a coral lined pathway and be standing on the edge of the Pacific Ocean-wild and windswept, the vastness never more apparent. As you make your way back to the road it’s hard not to be overcome by the view of the lagoon through the palm trees. All my favourite blue hues blended into one spectacular vision.
We ordered baguettes and Pain au Chocolate for the next morning and enjoyed a salted caramel crepe and coffee in the only open café we could find. A local man cleaned some enormous Mahi-Mahi on the little dinghy wharf and the sharks moved in to enjoy the spoils.
A few days later we used the incoming tide to our advantage, doing something called a Drift dive, or in our case a drift snorkel. It has to be one of the most amazing experiences so far and so far there have been a few. You basically take your dinghy to the entrance of a pass, attaching it to yourself with a rope, everyone jumps out equipped with snorkeling gear and you simply let the current carry you through- like a piece of flotsam with eyes! It’s effortless for the most part and you get to be a spectator of the underwater world for the time it takes you to move through. The depth in the middle is significant, maybe 20 metres but you can see all the way to the bottom. Sharks line the sea floor, while either side the coral reef houses an incredible array of sea life all going about their daily business completely oblivious to the strange, mask clad bits of ‘rubbish’ floating by. You get to the end of the pass, eyes wide, wonder coursing through your body and the only words are, ‘again, please let me do that again’, If you time it right you can probably do it 2 or 3 times, we didn’t, so once had to suffice. I was glad the dinghy was close by when a curious black tip reef shark started heading our way to investigate. Seb and Lilly were either side of me and they both grabbed my hands saying, “it’s ok Mum, we’ll just make ourselves look bigger”. It swam away and my breathing returned to normal, yet again amazed by my kids and the way they see the world.
We sailed across to a bay called Hirifa where the sand is pink, sharks and rays swim in the shallows and the kids had a blast playing on the beach with new and old friends.
I was hit by a realization that’s been lurking for some time as we sailed away from the atoll. Here are people, living on a spit of sand literally in the middle of nowhere. They seem happy, (you’d have to live amongst them for some time to really know). They have to get in a boat and travel 30 miles to get supplies, which generally come once a week. They still seem happy. They don’t have it all and nor do they seem to be trying to have it all. It seems that trying to have it all is what makes us unhappy. It’s an interesting realization and it needs to be demonstrated to really sink in. The irony is the amount of time, effort and money it takes to ‘learn’ that lesson for people who have grown up in a world where having ‘everything’ is the norm. Easy for me to say now, I wonder if I’ll remember that when we’re land-lubbers again…
There’s lots more to write but I’ll leave it there for now. It’s almost breaky time and I can hear the soft snores of Seb coming from the cabin behind me. If I’m not mistaken, Lilly will already be reading and will have been doing so for some time.
Sending love to everyone as always,
Slice of Life standing by.